Monday, September 28, 2009

Training Tips: 30 minute Down-Stay

The 30 minute down-stay is one of the most valuable things I have ever taught a dog, the most boring, but the most helpful. To me, this is the foundation for a good family pet.

The 30 minute down-stay does a couple of things. First, it establish you as pack leader. Second, it calms your dog down. Third, it comes in very handy when you go places with your dog.

The way to teach this is not rocket science. Have your dog on lead. Put your dog in a down and say "Stay." You may have to, depending on the age of your dog, use the lead to hold him down by putting your hand or foot on the lead-- this is to limit the dogs movement and should NOT be used as correction.

If your dog gets up, you don't say anything, you just place him back into the down-stay. There is NO correction. Yes, when you start, they will pop up and pop up and pop up. Just calmly, without words, place the dog back into place. Slowly the dog will take longer between pop ups. The dog may not wiggle from side to side but may fall asleep. If they fall asleep, that is a good thing!

When the 30 minutes is up, gently praise your dog with words. If you want to pet them make sure they stay in the down-stay, and do not roll over onto their side or back. Why I am not using food? This is not a food reward exercise, the reward is praise. Release the dog after you praise them using your release word (my word is "Break").

When you first start doing this you will need to be on the floor with your dog. You will find very soon, even with a puppy, that you will soon be able to get further and further away. You must do it for the whole 30 minutes. Once you have some distance, and have a solid down-stay for 30 minutes, come back closer in and begin to add distractions like a ball rolling by.

Practice your 30 minute down-stay every single day.

Some trainers and dog handlers do not like the 30 minute down-stay. You need to pick the method that works best for you and your dog. Some think 30 minutes is too long and that you will never use this. Some even have told me 30 minutes is cruel. That is for your to decide. I have never yelled, harmed, or injured my dog while doing this. I have seen Buttercup look at me, like "are we done yet because I REALLY want to play," and I guess you can call that cruel, especially when I was rolling a ball past her.

You will use this more than you realize. You will use this when you have guests over that are not fans of dogs, or while you are eating dinner. You will use this when you take your dog to the mall while you drink your coffee. You will use this when you open your front door so your dog does not bolt out in to traffic. Not all of those are 30 minutes but it creates a good strong foundation, that is not based on food rewards but based on your relationship with your dog.

If you prefer to teach the down-stay with food, I will present you a short version of how to train a down-stay with the food method. You lure your dog into a dog, if they do not know down already. Stand in front of them and treat. Release dog. Repeat. Begin adding a small amount of time as you see the dog begin to easily stay in position. You do NOT want the dog to get up, so your rate of reinforcement with food needs to be constant and fast as you start to teach this. Once you have repeated several times with increased time begin to add distance, say a foot or two. Take a step back, step back in and feed. When working on distance, don't work on time. When working on time, don't work on distance. Eventually distance and time will meet. Once you have time, add distractions. You will not work up to 30 minutes using this method. Using this method, you will work up to 5 minutes.

Next on "Training Tips" we we discuss training your dog to heel using the clicker method and back chaining-- no real chains are involved, it is a method where you start where you are and work backwards to get the behavior you desire.

(Please always discuss with a licensed Dog trainer and use common sense.)

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Fun Finds: Pop Dog Press

After being taken for a short walk by the sweet little girl next door (the one that drew me a picture), I decided to surf the web looking for fun dog related items. I stumbled across this wonderful work at Pop Dog Press on etsy.
Here you can find breed specific gear with a fun and modern twist.
She also has a wonderful blog, Pop Dog Blog, where you discover more of her artwork, key chains, cards and portraits.

Children are the best!

The other day the little girl next door gave me a stick. She has seen me a few days earlier chewing on a stick. She asked my human about why I was doing this. My human told her that I liked sticks and that dogs chew on them like humans chew on gum.

Then the other day the little girl found a stick and gave it to me. I thought it was so thoughtful, I sent her a thank you letter with dog stickers. The letter went something like this:
"Bark Bark Bark. Ruff, growl bark. Bark Bark, ruff."
(In case you can't read dog:
Thank you for the stick. I had fun chewing on it. That was very thoughtful of you.")

The little girl then brought over this wonderful picture for me:

Children are the best!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

In the beginning, there was dog training....

When you decided to bring a dog into your home, we usually think about the obvious-- things like food, shelter, and affection. Most of us tend to over look one of the most important things you can do to have a wonderful dog-- training.

I can not tell you how many people when they see Buttercup, they go on and on about how their dog could never behave like that. And maybe they are right, my first dog, Oliver, was no walk on the beach (we will get into him later). But I do think that you can have a wonderful dog with a few simple steps.

In the following entries I will share some of the lessons I have learned over the course of the past 5 years since I first laid eyes on Oliver. I will go over my journey to create a dog I wanted to live with, including both how I train and how I have been trained. Some stories have a happy ending, some are about perseverance and what it means to really love. It will include various training methods and concepts.

I will start here with three concepts that are the foundation of my training philosophy:

1. Create a Plan: Dream the about the Dog you will Create-- revisit this idea often.
Yes, that is right, the dog you will create (within reason of course). Most dogs, can and want to be "good dogs." You as the human have the responsibility to train them to be able to live and share the human world. We expect a lot from our dogs -- and reading our mind seems to be the number one thing we think they should instinctively do. While dogs seems to have a natural ability for figuring out our words, body language, and seem to have an amazing ability to forgive us repeatedly for having no clue what they are trying to communicate to us. But despite what we seem to think, they do not get the rules of the human world though osmosis.

To achieve the dog you dream, write down a few sentences on why you want a dog, and what you want your dog to be able to do. This is important for many reasons. This will let you know what you need to train for and it will let you know what type of dog you will want to have in your home.
If you already have a dog, it will give a good place to restart your relationship. I would add habits your dog currently has that you want to replace with other habits.
I revisit this list often.

By jotting down your desires for your dog will help you match up your training style and desires with the various methods.

2. You are the source of Food
When the food bowl hits the floor, it does not mean time to eat, it means "Look at me." Yes, that is right, your dog will not go for the food bowl till you give a release word. I use the word "Break" because it is not commonly used in everyday conversation like the word "OK" is. I will describe later how to train for this, but it is pretty simple concept that will translate to other training areas.

3. 30 minute down stay
I was in a training class a while back and the trainer wanted me to use food for her stays. I told her that we don't use food for stays. She was not happy with me. There are two morals to this story. One, use the training method that you feel comfortable with and where you feel you see results. Your dog will sense if you are uncomfortable and react. Two, with that said, I recommend not using food for training the long down stays, short stays are fine. The reason I don't use food is that you want your dog to listen and respond to your praise. Some people feel uncomfortable with this, and like I stated, pick the method that works for you. The 30 minute down-stay does a couple of things. First, it establish you as pack leader. Second, it calms your dog down. Third, it comes in very handy when you go places with your dog. I will discuss how to train for this in a future entry.

(Please always discuss with a licensed Dog trainer and use common sense.)

Monday, September 21, 2009

Featured Dog: Brice-- aka Bubby

Brice is a 10 year old Australian Shepherd from Aussie Rescue out of North Carolina. He is most often referred to as Bubby. Brice is usually reserved for when we are politely speaking "Brice, stop (fill in what he is not suppose to be doing)."

Brice is the definition of a Velcro dog-- I don't even have peace in the bathroom. In other words, where you go he goes. Brice is full of quirks. One of which is the kitchen floor. I am not sure why he is afraid of the floor, he just is. He will walk half way into the kitchen forwards, and finishes the rest of the way by walking backwards. He apparently has not gotten the memo that walking backwards is harder. Brice loves to be brushed and petted. If he even sees you with a brush he comes running to be groomed. Which is wonderful since his hair can require quite a bit of brushing.

Brice was the inspiration for the Doggie Sage line because he has such sensitive skin as well as having had two knee surgeries that required extra care.

Want your dog featured?

We are looking for fellow dogs to feature on our blog.
It is very simple to make it happen.

Send us a picture(s) of your dog with a few sentences about your canine companion. We would love to hear what make your dog special or any talents your dog has. Make it even better by including what Doggie Sage product your dog uses. Send to info [at] doggiesage [dot] com

We look forward to featuring all of you wonderful canines out there!

Double Duty for Human and Canine....

In these economic times it seems we are all looking for products that can do double duty. Well sometimes those things come in unexpected places, like our Doggie Sage line. Since all of our dog products use therapeutic and food grade ingredients, just like our human products, they can work with your skin to heal, clean and repair. We do however want to state that you don't not want to use human products on dogs. While some products are safe, some essential oils are not healthy for dogs.

So here is the low down on the products
The Hot Dog Balm:
The combination of shea butter and neem oil, make it perfect for dry itch spots. Calendula Oil will soothe and repair skin. Use it on your feet, elbows, and any other itchy or dry spot. The essential oils pack in extra cleansing and healing action. Here is what a secret shopper for wrote "The balm is the perfect all natural remedy for skin irritations, infections, hot spots and other minor skin inflictions. But one smell, and you, like me will want it for yourself. My dog had no minor skin problems, but I tried it on my rough elbows and nicks from gardening over the weekend. In one day, those little scrapes were gone and my dry bits smooth."

Doggie Sage Therapeutic Herbal Mist:
Combines powerful extracts with Icelandic Thermal Brine to help soothe skin and rid itches. Spray on bug bites. Even mist legs after shaving to help relieve razor burn. (You can purchase this product at select Whole Foods or online in October.)

Doggie Sage Shampoo Bar
The Shampoo Bar is great for traveling or camping when you don't want to bring all those extra bottles. You can use it for your hair, hands, and body. A facebook fan wrote "My pups love the bar shampoo! (I've even used it myself!) Great stuff!"

Doggie Sage Conditioning Mist:

Add a few spritzes to hair to soften and shine hair. Here is what a customer had to say about our Mist, "I use it everyday on my hair. It helps to keep my hair shinny without over doing it. I can use between washes to help style my hair."

Have you tried our dog products on your dog or on yourself? Leave a comment with your experience.